Where Will All the Young Lions Go? Utah's Spaces for Emerging Artists
by Kent Rigby
Emerging artists, particularly in the literary world, are sometimes referred to as “young lions”, an appropriate term, given their youthful strength, singleness of purpose and ravenous appetites. Such traits can be equated with young lions out on the prowl, looking for their first “kill”. Young art lions are out looking for their first featured artist show and first major sale. Breaking into the retail art world and gaining gallery representation is their prey. Like young lions, they go hungry sometimes, do a lot of wandering, and often get “thorns” in their feet.
The reality of the commercial art world is that retail galleries are not set up to accommodate the young lions. Commercial retail galleries survive by sales, and young lions are a big risk, as they have no history of “kills”. Once in a while, the young lions get lucky and find a gallery that is sympathetic to their plight.
The UNKnown Gallery was just such a gallery. It was established specifically for young lions, by young lions. Unfortunately, as many of you now know, UNKnown Gallery closed at the end of June. The closing of this alternative gallery represents yet another loss in a long line of closed Salt Lake alternative galleries. Many mainstream commercial galleries have opened and closed in the last few years as well. Chroma Gallery closed at the end of July.
This leads one to the question “What’s going on in Salt Lake City that makes fine art such a hard sale?”
I remember a story Tony Smith (F. Anthony Smith) told his class of freshmen art students at the University of Utah back in the early 70’s. Tony said that Brigham sent a group of Mormon artists to Paris to study art and they all came back painting nudes and abstracts. Brigham reportedly said, ‘No more support for visual art’. After that edict, all of the cultural emphasis was turned towards the performing arts. It is still very evident today that the primary local cultural interest is in the performing arts. That’s where the greatest public interest seems to be and that’s where the lion’s share of the available art dollars goes.
When the now-closed E Street Gallery was getting ready to open, owner Sandra Jensen did a marketing and demographics study that indicated only 1 ½% of Salt Lake area residents purchase original artwork. Sandra went ahead and opened E Street Gallery and hung on for almost 10 years before the struggle became too wearing. That 1 ½% figure pretty much tells the whole story. The average person around here just does not support fine art with retail purchases. Many people enjoy the monthly Gallery Stroll, but they are like window shoppers, they look but don’t buy. At Left Bank Gallery we used to call them “Salt Lookers”, instead of “Salt Lakers”.
Dolores Chase told me that Chase Fine Art did not show a profit for the first 10 years. Left Bank Gallery, started as an alternative gallery by Dolores in 1993, held on by its fingernails for 10 years before going non-profit as New Visions Gallery and then closed 2 years later. Same old story.
Jeremy Herridge, one of the co-owners of the UNKnown Gallery, related to this reporter some of the issues associated with the closing of UNKnown.
Why wasn't the gallery financially viable?
“This is a tough one! We went in to it knowing we would never be millionaires running an art gallery, but we had a lot for karma and love. There are a lot of factors to be considered here. We sold a few hundred pieces of original artwork while our doors were open, so we were moving a lot of artwork, but not for big-ticket prices. Also, I would have to say that the economy had a huge impact on the financial aspects of art sales. It is hard to go out and buy a piece of artwork that you really like, if you are living paycheck to paycheck. The local real-estate market is also a factor that affects all galleries. It is hard to be in a location that is "good" without paying a pretty penny. To sum it all up, it maybe wasn't the right time and place for a gallery like ours.”
Could something similar be done again and made to work?
“I hope so! I really hope that both the Kayo [closing this month] and the UNKnown gallery will inspire younger people to remain active in the art world and to take control of their art and the venues that show it. I will be the first to say that our ideas were never completely original and had been done one way other before. But we repackaged them for our generation and I hope that future generations do the same.”
What has the community lost?
“Without sounding cocky, I would say "diversity". It was told to me time and time again how the UNKnown was exactly what Salt Lake needed. A place with diversity amongst the artwork, the patrons, and the "norm". People always compared us to galleries in metropolitan cities like New York, and LA, not Salt Lake. We embraced people from all walks of life and all backgrounds and gave them a place to view and display something different. Salt Lake is an amazing place, but there needs to be more freshness and diversity, which I hope will continue with the next generation of citizens.”
What will the impact on the young, emerging artists be?
“Closing of the UNKnown and Kayo Galleries will/has had an effect on emerging artists. Artists young and old are always inspired by looking at work by their peers. It is a crucial part of art and artists and the interaction between. So many times I heard people say how "refreshing and inspiring" it was for them to visit the Unknown gallery. Many "established artists" saw it a way to let down their guard and revert back to their primordial roots of artistic making. At the same time the gallery was an aspiring goal for the young rising and unknown artists to be a part of something they looked up to and set goal to be a part of it. We at the Unknown always wanted to include and help out many artists, on all levels, have their work be seen by the public.
Still reeling from the closing of UNKnown, the area’s emerging artists received further disappointment with the news that Kayo Gallery is closing after their current show. Kayo Gallery has been operating since the beginning of 2005. Created by Kenny Riches, it combined a frame shop, gallery space and artist studios in the heart of Salt Lake and showed art by emerging artists. Though the gallery is closing, the vision of its creator will still be felt in Salt Lake. Kristina Robb and partner Brandon Garcia, owners of The Pickle Company, an alternative a multidisciplinary arts center located at the historic Utah Pickle Co. building, 741 South 400 West, report that Kenny Riches will be doing a six-month residence as a Guest Curator at the Pickle Company.
With the recent closings of Kayo and Unknown, the young art lions might be asking “Where are we to go now?”
There are some very excellent not-for-profit galleries that accept annual applications for fine art exhibits: the Utah Art Council's Rio Gallery, Salt Lake Arts Council's Finch Lane Art Barn Gallery, the Salt Lake Art Center, and Art Access Gallery. Check those organizations web sites for more information. Laura Durham at the Utah Art Council's Artist Resource Center can help artists find alternative venues, exhibits and competitions, nationwide.
The Utah Arts Alliance, 2191 South 300 West, is diligently working to expand their visual art programs, increasing artist studio space and establishing an annual exhibition schedule. At least six months of the schedule will be dedicated to local artist proposed exhibits as well as several theme shows specifically for local emerging artists. Contact Derek Dyer at 651-3937, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contemporary Design and Art Gallery, 30 East Broadway, #105, owner Michael Melik is very sympathetic to emerging artists and has made a public call for emerging artists works. Contact Michael at 364-0200, or e-mail, email@example.com.
Local Colors Artworks, at Trolley Square, is an artist’s co-op that provides sales opportunity for emerging artists. 531-6966.
Mary Pierson at Magpie’s Nest Gallery, I Street and First Avenue, 363-7764, provides opportunities for emerging artists to exhibit.
Patrick Moore Gallery, 511 West 200 South, is a great place to exhibit and owner Patrick Hoagland is a strong supporter of emerging artists. Contact Patrick at 521-5999.
Utah Artists Hands, 61 West 100 South, caters to Utah artists. Call Pam at 355-0206.
Wasatch Frame Shop, 1940 South 1100 East, has an emerging artist exhibit program. Call owner Bill Barron at 485-1353.
3W Gallery at W Communications, 159 West Broadway, #200, host’s monthly-featured artist exhibits for emerging and established artists.
Ken Sanders Rare Books, 268 South 200 East produces 6 8 visual art exhibits annually, contact Ken at 521-3819.
Rose Wagner Art Gallery at the Salt Lake County Center for the Arts, 138 West Broadway, provides gallery space for emerging and established artists. Call 468-3517 or 323-4228.
Visage Salon Studios, 2006 South 900 East, hosts monthly emerging artist exhibits and is open for the monthly Gallery Stroll. Contact Kacie Hersch at 328-0069.
Much healthy growth has invigorated the local visual art scene within the past several years. Certainly the UNKnown Gallery and Kayo Gallery made a great contribution to the "scene". Hopefully this positive influence will live on and this positive impetus will not be lost. Perhaps a consortium of local artists could be established to talk about what opportunities we can create for ourselves. Artists of Utah and 15 BYTES may be able to help serve as a clearinghouse of ideas? Watch upcoming editions of 15 BYTES for more information.
Exhibition Spotlight: Salt Lake City
Jared Nielsen and the PARTNERS Exhibit
by Stefanie Dykes
The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. . .They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating. Pearl Buck
Artists are not truly alive unless we are creating.
I remember the first time I noticed Jared Nielsen. I was traveling to a print conference at Rutgers University, New Jersey. He was sitting several rows ahead of me on the airplane showing his prints to the passenger next to him. I remember smiling and thinking what other type of artwork can you share on a plane, but prints? Prints are small, intimate and portable. Jared and I met up again last winter when he came into Saltgrass Printmakers ready to print a series of varied edition prints for an upcoming exhibition. During his time in the print shop, I noticed that despite his continued struggle with chronic back pain and medication adjustments, Jared sounded better. He was engaged, focused and happier.
In January, I called Ruth Lubbers to recommend Jared for the Art Access/VSA of Utah Partners: Visual Arts Mentoring Program -- a program I believed would give Jared the resources and opportunities to continue creating prints. The Partners Program is a mentorship program that matches adult artists with disabilities or other life situations with professional artists in the community. Jared and I have worked along side and learned from each other as we prepared for the PARTNERS group exhibition opening this month at the Art Access Gallery. Jared is highly motivated. He has set several goals to accomplish during this program, which includes putting together a portfolio to present to galleries, professionally documenting his work in slides and digital formats for submission to juried print shows across the country, developing a new series of etchings, tackling relief printmaking and has proposed a collaborative art project for the two of us.
“You can’t see my crutch.”
To begin with, Jared is in persistent pain from a snowboarding accident. It’s been an ongoing struggle with debilitating pain which doctors haven’t been able to successfully treat. Jared is also being treated for Attention Deficient Disorder and Disassociative Identity Disorder (“DID”). DID is a disorder that involves a disturbance in both the memory and the identity of an individual. It’s a defense mechanism that helps the individual to cope with past trauma, but creates serious disabling symptoms.
Jared’s disabilities are hidden behind his playful, boyish looks. For Jared, it is a daily struggle with his back pain that wears away at his physical strength and drains his ability to manage the symptoms of his ADD, depression and social anxiety. The pain pushes to the surface and Jared can’t focus or work for more than three or four hours a day. It’s difficult to hold a job, which means he can’t carry his own insurance and Medicaid doesn’t cover all the special tests and counseling he needs. Daunting as all this is for Jared, Ruth and I were struck by his forthright and open acceptance of his mental and physical disabilities, “It’s who I am,” he says. Integration is a theme that Jared uses to describe himself and his art work. Jared sees all of this as beneficial, because it’s what he draws on while creating his prints and paintings.
“. . . more than the eye can see and the mind can conceive. . .”
Jared paints and makes prints, but printmaking especially fits Jared’s creative impulses. He is trained in screen and intaglio printmaking processes that he uses to explore subconscious associations. Jared loves the detailed technical processes involved in printmaking. “I have to know how it works, so I can use it to expand the images,” he told me. Each printmaking medium demands that the printmaker be highly skilled and trained in all the technical aspects of the process to be able to successfully create an edition of prints. Each print matrix created gives Jared endless combinations to experiment with in his imagery. He tries to meld his technical skills as a printmaker with his emotions and feelings to create images that portray his essence.
Printmaking is a very physical medium and demands a lot from Jared. He has to be on his feet for many hours hunched over the ink slabs and presses. If he overexerts himself, the pain increases and drains his physical strength allowing the depression and anxiety to become overwhelming. It’s a vicious circle for Jared. “If I’m not making art, I’m dying,” is his attitude, but making art exasperates the pain he experiences. Jared works on integrating the pain with his emotions so he can channel all of his energy into his imagery. When he is “in the zone,” Jared feels as if he is actually dealing with issues in his life and not ignoring them. His prints include figurative and abstracted forms with textures that are deeply layered and allow each viewer a myriad of interpretations. The journey of making art and the exploration of concepts is what Jared thrives on in his artistic endeavors. He sees each viewer, with their open ended interpretations of his art, as a continuation of his creative process.
Showing in this year's PARTNERS exhibit at Art Access are the following partners:
Jared Nielsen - Stefanie Dykes
Tony Diaz - Sandra Brunvand
Dimas DeLao - David Gianfredi
R.C. Randall - Kinde Nebeker
Melanie Sandgren - Jennifer Barton
Alicia Jensen - Kindra Fehr
Abraham Abeyta - Trent Thursby Alvey
August Honare - Bob Wynne
Tawny Dean - Holly Mae Pendergast
To learn more about the PARTNERS program visit the Art Access website at www.accessart.org